10/07/2019 08:00 EDT | Updated 10/09/2019 10:57 EDT

Born And Raised Podcast: How Halifax's Pier 21 Helped Immigrant True Love Bloom

No distance was too great for these bonds.

Listen to ‘Born And Raised’ on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

From the late ’20s to the early ’70s, a Halifax seaport was the “front door to Canada.” Pier 21 welcomed more than one million newcomers to this country. Of those newcomers, Pier 21 was an anchor for two couples to start their lives together. These are their love stories, as told by their children.

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
For 43 years, around one million newcomers were welcomed to Canada through Pier 21.

In this episode of “Born And Raised: Love,” hosts Alisha Sawhney and Al Donato find out who the sender and recipient were of a mysteriously marked love letter; Alisha shares the story of her parents’ long-distance, personal-ad fuelled courtship; a war bride crosses the Atlantic to reunite with her soldier husband and live on his nation’s reserve. 

Can’t play it on this page? Listen on the SoundCloud site.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Meet the guests: 

Canadian Museum of Immigration/Donato Pezzutto
He was a steelmill worker in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., she was living in a small village in northern Italy. A letter with a unique address sparked their love story.

“To the most honest girl,

In the village of Sant’Andrea di Barbarana,

Treviso, Italy.”

This letter was written by Donato Pezzutto’s father Augusto, a steelmill worker in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Who knew that it would find its way to the love of his life? 

Jean travelled by boat and canoe to be with her husband, who belonged to Tobique First Nation.

“Who could guess a blind–date dare would

lift me like a wave in Surrey

wash me to the Wolastoquik

where the woods dip to the river?”

It was love at first sight when Cindy Gaffney’s parents, Charlie and Jean, met in a crowded dance hall in England. When Charlie, from Tobique First Nation, returned to his nation’s reserve after the war, Jean would have to cross an ocean and a river to see him again. 

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Museum staff member Carrie-Ann Smith says that visitors will often tell her what they get right about their exhibits and what they got wrong. "They have that lived experience. They’re the authentic voice. Living history is just really special in that way."

About Pier 21

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 keeps the seaport’s memories alive through sharing immigration stories like those featured on the podcast. If you’d like to share you or your family’s journey to Canada with the museum, check out their online collection form.   


  • Read the poem inspired by Charlie and Jean’s love story: “Blind Date” by Maggie Butt, voiced in the episode by Sophie Gallagher. 

  • Thousands of Indigenous soldiers were on the frontlines for Canada during both world wars. But when they returned home, they were rarely afforded the same assistance non-Indigenous Canadian veterans received. To learn more about the ongoing efforts to support Indigenous veterans like Charlie, read the latest report on Indigenous veterans by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

  •  Curious about what Augusto wrote on the back of his photo? Here’s the note in full:

Donato Pezzutto/Getty
When it comes to his father's shirtless photo, Don says his father insists it was the photographer's idea.

Alto il petto, dritto lo sqardo

Fiero l’orgoglio di essere sano e forte
Anche cio e un grande ed un bel dono del creatore
Attendo i tuio commenti 

With a high chest, looking straight ahead 
Feeling proud inside that you are health and strong 
Even this is a big and great gift from the creator 
I await your comments

Translation by Vince Simone and voiced in the episode by Franco Berti. 

  • The song “Pier 21,” featured at the end of the episode was by musician John Wort Hannam

  • Special thanks to tape-syncers Kaila Jefferd-Moore, Jericho Knopp, and Russell Gragg. The three of them made our interviews in Halifax, Fredricton, and Sault Ste. Marie possible.

Stream this episode and more: find ‘Born And Raised: Love’ on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

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